Radio Host Nachum Segal Seeks Diverse ‘Congregation’

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nachum-segalRobert Wiener of NJJN reports: For more than 25 years, the voice of Nachum Segal has been a welcome presence in the homes and on the car radios of thousands of Jews in the New York-New Jersey area and, thanks to the Internet, countless more in many parts of the world.

From 6 to 9 on weekday mornings on WFMU (91.1 FM), his radio broadcast JM in the AM features religious, community, and political news; Jewish music in Hebrew and English; birth and wedding announcements; and even sports reports from the area’s day schools.

And while the show reflects Segal’s own Orthodox practice and right-leaning politics, it is also a meeting place for fans of classic Israeli music, contemporary versions of liturgical songs, and interviews with national Jewish leaders.

“The impression is that the majority of our listeners are Orthodox, yeah. That’s probably accurate, but it’s very hard to say,” he told NJ Jewish News in a Nov. 26 telephone interview. “Am I intent on reaching beyond an Orthodox audience? There is no question about it.”

Segal will make one such effort when he appears before a Conservative congregation, B’nai Shalom in West Orange, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. He will bring along Israeli-American folksinger Sandy Shmuely to entertain patrons of the synagogue’s “A Night at the Auction.”

“We invited Segal partly because of his outreach,” said the auction’s chair, Steve Colten of West Orange. “We have lots of members who are friendly with Nachum, and some of them are big supporters of his. We look to build bridges and create programming in the religious community and the secular community.”

To Segal, those bridges are already under construction. “There are people who claim they are now observant because of the show, and there are people who claim they would have no connection to the Jewish world if it was not for the show,” he said.

Changing lives

The son of a prominent New Jersey rabbi, Segal began his broadcasting career in 1981 on the campus radio station of Yeshiva University, where he was an undergraduate. In his senior year he began hosting JM in the AM at WFMU, now located in Jersey City.

In 2000, a New York Times article, now hanging on the wall of Segal’s Lower East Side apartment, called the show “unapologetically Orthodox, with rightward leanings.” The Times added that the show “creates a sense of community by offering ‘mazel tov’ wishes on the air between songs.”

“Is it accurate? Would I question The New York Times?” Segal said. “But all kidding aside, I guarantee you that the hasidic person in Williamsburg who likes my show would never regard it as ‘right-leaning,’ so it depends on your perspective. But, yeah, I would say the politics of the show is right-leaning, and it appeals to a tremendous number of people. I have gotten the message, ‘I hate your politics but I love your show’ a thousand times in the last 20 years.”

Segal said that “early on,” he considered becoming a rabbi.

His father, Rabbi Zev Segal, was religious leader at Young Israel of Newark from 1975 until he retired in 1978; from 1968 to 1971 he was president of the Rabbinical Council of America. He was also head of education at the Yeshiva of Newark, which evolved into the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston.

“I find myself better at wholesale than retail Judaism,” said the broadcaster. “There are a lot of difficult things about being in my position. It is not easy to – quote-unquote – represent Judaism. Take the average rabbi and multiply that. Obviously, I have a pretty large congregation.”

That congregation showed its strength in March 2008, when the elder Segal disappeared just after leaving a 25th anniversary tribute to JM in the AM at the WFMU studio.

Within minutes after the rabbi was reported missing, listeners contacted one another and mobilized into a search party. The hunt ended when police discovered Segal’s car and lifeless body in the Hackensack River. Police said the elderly rabbi either was confused as he drove in the area or lost control of the car.

Listeners have also been able to share happy moments with the 47-year-old radio host, his wife Staci, and their six children – three of whom are 12-year-old triplets.

“When I got engaged and I got married and we had boys and they had brises, and when my wife had the triplets, these were significant events that my radio family felt a part of. That’s heartwarming,” he said. “I do what I do, and one of the byproducts is that people enjoy the sincerity, enjoy the efforts I make, and it might change their lives a bit.”



  1. Rav Moshe paskened, in the Igros Moshe, that it is assur to go into a Conservative (or Reform) church (that calls themselves a “synagogue”).

  2. According to most “Orthodox” Jewish poskim as outlined in the letter signed by the Vaad Harabbonim of the USA and Canada, signed by Reb Moshe and all the leading Gedolim of yeteryear, it is abosloutly forbidden to enter a Conservative Shul.
    To reach out and bring them closer is noble indeed but to mingle and entertain is despicable.
    Rabbi Segal from Staten Island is also a trmendous force in Kiruv.
    P.S. Kol Isha is frowned upon by us too. remember the past live the present and trust the future. Nachum don’t do this.

  3. I am sorry but most of you are ignorant closed minded people, you have a bout three Rabbis who you quote your halacha from and then you misquote them.

  4. Oh, comment number 6, yoo-hoo, I grew up an oisvarf and in 1981 became Orthodox. I remember when Rebbetzin Jungreis spoke at a Sunday morning breakfast at our temple. Later on I went over to her to ask her a question and she looked me in the eye and said, “You heard me.” There is no good reason not to go and you folks who get so bunched up about going into this or that building are part of the reason that so many Jews don’t know more.

    Everyone who made a critical comment — do you reguarly invite non-frum people to your Shabbos table? Or even over for coffee?

    I love my people. But you have the wrong idea. Nachum has the right idea. Kol hakavod, Nachum, once again.

  5. Everything is allowed as long as you are doing kiruv. All aveiros are OK. We Jews believe that the ends or even the intent justifies the means. Go! These are our Poskim!

    Hashem yeracheim.

  6. I am no Rabbi so I won’t give my opinion on going to a Conservative Synagogue (though it sounds wrong to me if not for the DIRECT purpose of kiruv). I will say though that I love the show, can’t stand the Kol Isha (which is more likely to be played when Nachum is out and people are covering for him). I say stick with the Orthodox, don’t play Kol Isha and keep up the great work!

  7. Nachum is a frum yid, son and brother or prominent rabbanim.

    We owe him the benefit of the doubt that this appearance will take place in a location other than their Temple.

    Mitzvah D’Oraysa:
    Be Dan L’Kaf Z’Chus
    Rabbi YM Kagan, Zatzal)

  8. To #5 et al: The famous psak from the 11 gedolim, including R’ Moshe, did NOT forbid entering a conservative shul. It forbade rabbanim from joining organizations which had non Orthodox Rabbis as members. The primary target of that ruling was the New York Board of Rabbis.
    Many gedolim have also prohibited entering non orthodox synagogues for any reason, but that psak is not nearly so universally held as the NYBOR psak. My Rebbe, a talmid of one of the signers, has told me in response to a specific query, that we should not go in for any religious purpose, although he does allow me to go into the social hall to vote, as that is the location of my local precinct.
    I don’t know the circumstances of Nachum’s specific appearance, nor who he asked, if anyone, if it is OK to go there. But there are many reasons why a heter may be given. Especially noting the fact the he is a talmid of YU, and Rav JB Soloveichik was probably the most significant American rav who was against the psak of those 11 gedolim. Although there are legends that claim that later in life Rav Soloveichik acknowledged privately that in retrospect, the others were probably correct.

  9. he can do whatever he wants, and if yiu dont like it, dont do it! he’s doing kiruv his way, and he has all the rabbi’s endorsing him, even if you dont think so. how do you know otherwise?

  10. # 5- what on earth is wrong with you? let him do whatever he wants- its none of your business! if he wants to go to a conservative shul, why cant he?

  11. I believe the only halachic issue is entering their place of “worship”. It would have been much more appropriate to make a public gathering in a hall somewhere. Also I disagree with the sentiment of expanding the congregation of listeners for business purposes. Religious values preceed business!

  12. Business? Most Reformed and Conservative temple-goers have one foot in the grave, as these movements have no future. And if they did, they wouldn’t want to listen to a yeshiva-trained bearded man in a yarmulke talking about G-d, Torah, mitzvos, morality, capitalism, terrorism, etc. They’d rather listen to Al Franken or some women rabbi-professor or maybe to some self-loathing Orthodox musmach of YCT and its affiliated movement organizations go on about feminism, how Orthodoxy needs to change, or how we should be having voluntary disputations with galachim. This is an insignificant demographic, both numerically, and in every other whcih way, for us. This is a poor decision economically and morally.

  13. Before we jump to conclusions, I think we owe it to someone who has done so much for the khal to be dan lekav zechus.

    While many major american gedolim do not allow people to enter a conservative or reform “shul”, I know of many people in kiruv or for shalom bayis who have received individual heterim for individual circumstances. While this information is second hand as I am not in kiruv, I have heard that these heterim often relate to entering the gymnasium or catering hall while avoiding the sanctuary.

    People, while in Brooklyn it may seem like all is well, kiruv is not a nice to have. We are losing neshamos every day. Let’s not take “kiruv” lightly.


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